Spinach Filo Triangles (Spanakopita)
Spinach Filo Triangles feature the salty white Greek sheep's cheese called feta and wafer-thin continental filo pastry (both available at delicatessens and large stores). If you are not partial to the rather strong taste of feta, substitute ricotta cheese or home-made curd cheese (panir) or a combination of both. Include the optional cheddar cheese if you're using a substitute for feta. I have omitted salt from the recipe because feta cheese and spinach are both naturally salty. Add 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt if you are not using feta. These crisp, savoury, baked pastries are great for party catering.
• PREPARATION TIME: 1 - 1 1/2 hours
• BAKING TIME: 15 to 20 minutes
• YIELD: About 24 triangles
• 2 large bunches spinach, washed and coarsely chopped 5 tablespoons (100 ml) butter
• 1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon (5 ml) yellow asafoetida powder
• 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) nutmeg
• 2 tablespoons (40 ml) plain flour
• 3/4 cup (185 ml) milk
• 250 g (9 ounces) chopped feta cheese
(or ricotta or curd cheese plus 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) tasty cheddar cheese, grated)
• 375 g (13 ounces) filo pastry
• 2 tablespoons (40 ml) bread crumbs (optional)
• 1 cup (250 ml) melted butter (for brushing on the pastry layers)
1. Place the spinach in a large, heavy saucepan over moderately high heat with 3 tablespoons (60 ml) of butter, salt, and pepper. Bring the spinach to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook uncovered until the spinach is tender and the liquid has evaporated.
2. Melt another 2 tablespoons (40 ml) butter in a separate pan, add asafoetida, and saute for a few moments. Add the nutmeg and flour and saute for about 1 minute. Add the milk and stir carefully until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat. Combine the spinach, cheese, and sauce. Place the mixture in a bowl and allow to cool. If the mixture is too moist, add the optional bread crumbs.
3. Cut all the pastry sheets into long, 9 cm (4-inch) wide strips. Using a pastry brush, brush 2 strips with melted butter. Layer one buttered strip on top of another.
4. Place 1 heaped tablespoon of filling on the end of each double pastry strip and fold over to form a triangle, covering the filling. Lifting the triangle up and over to form a second triangle, continue folding until you reach the end of the pastry strip. Adhere the last edge of the pastry with butter.
5. Fill all the triangles in this manner, brush the tops with butter, and bake on unbuttered baking sheets in a preheated oven 180°C/355°F for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.